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  • US judge approved the extradition of Inocente Orlando Montano Morales to Spain to be prosecuted of alleged crimes committed during Salvadoran civil war

    US judge approved the extradition of Inocente Orlando Montano Morales to Spain to be prosecuted of alleged crimes committed during Salvadoran civil war | Photo: EFE

Published 6 February 2016

Inocente Montano, a former colonel, allegedly helped facilitate 1989 killings of six Jesuit priests during El Salvador’s civil war.

A United States Federal judge approved Spanish extradition requests on Friday ordering the deportation of a former Salvadoran colonel, where he will stand trial for his role in planning the murders of six Jesuit priests and two women in San Salvador in 1989.

Ironically, the man's first name, Inocente (Innocent) probably isn't a reflection of his role in the eight murders.

“In short, the government’s evidence shows (Montano) was a decision-maker and member of a group of officers who collectively ordered the unlawful killings of Jesuit priests,” Federal magistrate judge Kimberly Swank wrote. 

The ruling, albeit seventeen years after the massacre took place, is an important victory for the family members of the victims who were killed during the slaughter. 

“It would be best if this trial were taking place in El Salvador. But a trial in Spain may bring a measure of justice, and may open the way to domestic prosecutions,” said WOLA Program Director Geoff Thale. “This is an important step for human rights and for the rule of law.” 

The unusual extradition fight began in 2011 when Montano was indicted by a Spanish court charging him with murder.

In 2012, the former colonel was convicted in a U.S. federal court on charges of immigration fraud and perjury. He was later sentenced to serve time in a federal prison in North Carolina, which is why his extradition fight took place in the state. 

The killings, which were carried out during the bloody 12-year long Salvadorian civil war, sparked international outrage, eroding U.S. support– which had included money, weapons and training – for the rightwing Salvadoran government. 

The U.S.-backed civil war left 75,000 dead and 8,000 more disappeared, the vast majority of whom were victims of the military regime’s “dirty war” against political opponents, leftist activists, and other community organizers, including many religious leaders.

The Jesuits had a long-standing affiliation with liberation theology, and government officials suspected the priests of sympathizing with the FMLN insurgency. 

To date, the majority of individuals responsible for the widespread human rights abuses committed during the civil war have not been held accountable for their crimes. 

Five days after the signing of the Salvadoran Peace Accords in 1992, the conservative ARENA party government passed an amnesty law that protects human rights violators from being prosecuted, allowing those responsible for disappearances and murder to go unpunished.

WATCH: El Salvador refuses to extradite 13 soldiers to Spain 

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